Doors open at 6 p.m. for the opening reception at the Chilmark Community Center.
7 p.m. Dhamma Brothers (documentary, 76 mins, USA 2007)
Thomas Bena: “When I sat down to watch this film I was very skeptical ... a few minutes in I was mesmerized, and I stayed that way for the next hour! The men in this movie just blew my heart wide open.”
In 2002, an Alabama correctional facility became the first maximum security prison in North America to hold an extended Vispassna retreat, an emotionally and physically demanding course of silent meditation lasting 10 days. Corcord filmmaker Jenny Phillips follows hard-core convicts in their dramatic and problematic journey towards redemption. Winner of Best Documentary Feature, Woods Hole Film Festival, 2007.
Preceded by short film Puss.
Followed by discussion with filmmakers Andrew Kukura, Anne-Marie Stein, Jenny Phillips.
8:45 to 9:15 p.m. Intermission
9:15 p.m. Man in the Chair (feature, 107 mins, USA 2007)
Mr. Bena: “I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned three-act story ... and this is one of them. Christopher Plummer is great and I like the fact that it deals with several different storylines within a very conventional structure.”
Brad Westcott: “This film wears its nostalgia for Hollywood and its message on its sleeve, yet manages to win you over in a big way. Christopher Plummer’s performance is not to be missed.”
This intergenerational drama directed by Michael Schroeder stars Plummer as Flash Madden, a grumpy old Hollywood gaffer raging at old age — and soon raging at, and engaging, a high school film fanatic looking to make his first movie. This official entry into the Berlin International Film Festival, 2007, is both a love letter to moviemaking and a salute to society’s forgotten heroes.
Reception continues until doors close at midnight.
10:30 a.m. Doors open for coffee and breakfast treats (food all day by Danielle Dominick and the Scottish Bakehouse)
11 a.m. A Home for Us All (documentary, 45 mins, USA 2008)
Mr. Bena: “Liz and Ken have hit the nail on the head and let the cat out of the bag at the same time. By showing the faces and hearing the stories of those affected by the affordable housing issue, they make it hard to just shrug it off as a problem that will go away someday.”
The dream of home ownership can be very foggy on Martha’s Vineyard. In the past decade, the cost of living and the real estate values have skyrocketed, making home-ownership out of reach for many year-round residents. These economic pressures are slowly forcing the exodus of a generation, tearing at the social and cultural fabric that make Martha’s Vineyard’s community so unique. In this landmark documentary series, Islanders open their doors and share their aspirations for the future of the community they call home.
Followed by discussion with Island filmmakers Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth.
12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Lunch
12:45 p.m. Children’s films screen free at Chilmark library: two short films and a 1996 French feature film without words that takes a spectacular look at the hidden worlds in the life cycle of an ordinary meadow... insects become gigantic beasts, blades of grass turn into towering monuments, and raindrops form puddles that resemble vast oceans. Children under five must be accompanied by an adult.
12:45 p.m. Uncounted (documentary, 80 mins, USA 2007)
Mr. Bena: “I wasn’t excited to watch this film but several of my friends insisted that I consider it for the festival. At the end of the 80 minutes I knew I had to share this information with my community. I left wondering how and why we let this type of thing happen and wanted to do something about it.”
This controversial film by Emmy award-winning director David Earnhardt examines in factual, logical and startling terms how easy it is to change election outcomes and undermine election integrity. Eyewitness accounts from whistleblowers are backed up by election experts, revealing how Jim Crow tactics, voting-machine security breaches, vote count manipulation, and illegal behavior by voting machine manufacturers all threaten the very core of our democracy. This film takes on urgency as we approach a potentially knife-edge presidential race to be decided in November.
Preceded by the short film Last Time Clerkenwell.
Followed by discussion with David Earnhardt.
2:45 to 3 p.m. Intermission
3 p.m. Children’s films screen free at Chilmark library: a new stop-motion short directed by Vineyard kids and a 2007 feature film rated PG starring John Cusack as a widowed science fiction writer who adopts a boy who claims to be from Mars. Children under five must be accompanied by an adult.
3 p.m. Hear and Now (documentary, 85 mins, USA 2007)
Mr. Bena: “When my fiancée and I watched this story we both felt as if we were watching a visual ‘How To Love’ lesson. The science and history are equally amazing but for me, this is a love story and I’m so grateful that the Taylor family will be joining us to share more of their story in person!”
This winner of the audience award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival follows Paula and Sally Taylor who, after 65 years of silence, decide to undergo cochlear implant surgery and explore a totally unfamiliar world — the realm of sound. In this deeply personal memoir, filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky documents her deaf parents’ complex decision to undergo a risky and controversial medical procedure. This is a magical and deeply moving love story of two people who embark on an extraordinary journey from silence to sound. The question is, what will they make of it? And what might they gain, or lose, forever?
Followed by discussion with filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky and special guests.
4:45 to 5:15 p.m. Intermission
5:15 p.m. Filmmakers Panel: “I thought you’d never ask ...”
Organizers asked this year’s filmmakers, “What are the three questions that you wish the audience would ask you?” Hear the questions, their answers, and ask a few of your own!
Bena: “This is based on an idea that MVFF board member and award-winning documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner came up with; it worked so well for him in the Master Class that he led in Amsterdam that I figured we try it for ourselves. And in hopes of inspiring all of the local filmmakers to come out, we’ve made it a free event!”
6:15 to 7 p.m. Dinner
7 p.m. Surfwise (documentary, 93 mins, USA 2007)
Mr. Bena: “I love father/son films and I love surfing. On top of that, for years I’ve looked up to Dorian Paskowitz as a legend/hero/mentor ... he’s one of the few men to be able to surf into his eighties! But I had no idea “Doc” he had such a dark side.”
Produced by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and directed by Doug Pray, Surfwise delves into the life of legendary Malibu surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz. A successful doctor, Paskowitz dropped out of normal society in the 1960s and traveled to Israel, where he introduced the sport of surfing. He believed that learning rarely takes place in school; a true education is gained by living life itself. Doc went on to raise nine children (eight of them boys) in a cramped motor home, home-schooling all of them in the ways of health and fitness, sexuality, and above all, surfing. But like a lot of things in life, the ideal conjured by the image of tanned, muscular bodies and sun-drenched beaches also has a downside. This was an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, 2007.
Followed by discussion with filmmaker Doug Pray.
9 to 9:30 p.m. Intermission
9:30 p.m. Romance & Cigarettes (feature, 105 mins, USA 2005)
Mr. Bena: “Who would’ve thought that John Turturro, the Coen Brothers, Christopher Walken, Susan Sarandon, Steve Buscemi, and James Gandolfini would ever team up on a comedy/musical?!”
Mr. Westcott: “Movies don’t get much more daring than this. That’s why the critical reaction to this film was all over the map. Sex, smoking, singing and a swaggering Christopher Walkin cuttin’ the rug ... what more can you say?”
A down-and-dirty musical love story. Nick (James Gandolfini) is a New York ironworker married to Kitty (Susan Sarandon), a strong but gentle woman with whom he has three grown daughters. When Kitty catches him in a torrid affair with the flame-haired Tula (Kate Winslet), Nick must confront his primal urges and find his way back to his family, before he runs of out chances. Drawing on inspirations as diverse as Charles Bukowski and The Honeymooners, this romantic adventure taps into the emotions and music lodged in our shared subconscious, featuring songs that are anthems of our time from James Brown, Janis Joplin, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, Bruce Springsteen and more.
Preceded by short film Neo-Plastic Boogie-Woogie (5 mins)
11:30 to midnight Lounge 11:30 a.m. Hands in the Land, Program of two short films and discussion
Mr. Westcott: “Two compelling takes on how people are creating solutions to deal with the threats posed to agriculture by the modern world.”
Mr. Bena: “I spent one summer working on North Tabor Farm and it gave me such respect for farmers. This special program is a tribute to both the power of community to create healthy food alternatives and the power of women who work the land.”
Free entry to Island farmers and their families.
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (documentary, 20 mins, USA 2006)
Faith Morgan directs this story that outlines how Cuba’s economy crashed when the USSR collapsed in 1990. Oil and food imports were cut drastically and people became desperate. From hardships to creativity, from industrial to organic farming and urban gardens, Cuba is an example of options and hope.
Ladies of The Land (documentary, 29 mins, USA 2006)
This film shows how women, the fastest growing demographic in American agriculture, are doing things differently. While the average U.S. farm size has grown dramatically over the past 50 years, women tend to run smaller operations. Many choose organic and natural methods, in contrast to the highly mechanized and chemically-dependent farming that dominates the rest of the agricultural industry. And many women strongly value their community relationships, from selling their products at local markets, to using their farms as “de facto community centers.” Academy Award winner for student documentary, this film takes us on a journeys through America’s new heartland.
Followed by a discussion with Vineyard women of the land.
12:45 to 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. Children’s films screen free at Chilmark library. Three G-rated short films: a famous 34-minute French short about a boy and a loyal balloon that follows him everywhere, a 13-minute story of kids demonstrating the meaning of peace, and a Canadian story of a solitary shepherd who patiently plants and nurtures a forest of thousands of trees, single-handedly transforming his arid surroundings into a thriving oasis. Children under five must be accompanied by an adult.
1:30 p.m. I for India (documentary, 70 mins, England 2005)
Mr. Bena: “A perfect Sunday afternoon film, the filmmaker takes you on a journey but you never meet her ... through her family story you can draw some conclusions, but her manner of storytelling is virtually invisible — the result is that her family ends up feeling like your family.”
Mr. Westcott: “I for India raises important questions about home, family and nation, without seeming a bit didactic. The filmmaker’s decision to remove herself from the material and let archival footage and her family’s own super 8 diaries tell the story creates a very lyrical and moving atmosphere.”
This official selection from the 2006 Sundance Film Festival begins in 1965, when Yash Pal Suri, a young doctor, left India for the U.K. with hopes of improving his family’s life. Upon arriving in England he purchased two Super 8mm cameras, two projectors and two reel-to-reel tape recorders. He sent one of each to his family in India, and kept the others for himself. Over the next 40 years, through regular mailings of his filmed and taped thoughts and observations, he shared his new life abroad with family members back home, providing a unique record of the eccentricities — and occasional racism — of his new English hosts. Directed by one of Suri’s three daughters, this film uses archival and contemporary footage to craft a heartfelt meditation.
2:40 to 3 p.m. Intermission
3 p.m. Children’s films screen free at Chilmark library: A short film about the hilarious attempts of Mr. Johnson to get rid of a little yellow cat, and a feature film telling the heartwarming story about Oblio, a boy banished from his village by an evil Count for being the only person whose head is round, rather than pointy. Oblio and his faithful dog, Arrow, set out for the Pointless Forrest, where they learn that you don’t have to have a point on your head for your existence to have merit — that is, a point. Children under five must be accompanied by an adult.
3 p.m. International Short Films program (83 minutes of experimental, animated, documentary and fiction films)
4:30 to 5 p.m. Intermission
5 p.m. Taxi to the Dark Side (documentary, 106 mins, USA 2007)
Mr. Bena: “Disgusting. This film enraged me and made me very sad. It’s hard to believe that all of this is going on, has been for years, and that this is where a majority of our tax dollars are still spent!”
Mr. Westcott: “A lot of current documentaries on Iraq can’t help but look backwards, replaying the decision to go to war. Taxi stands out because its central issue is still very much in play: whether the U.S. can reclaim the high ground by denouncing torture as an interrogation tactic and restoring its commitment to habeas corpus. An impeccably made, powerful film.”
Winner of Oscar for best documentary feature at this year’s Academy Awards and best documentary screenplay from the Writer’s Guild of America, this is the latest documentary from now two-time Oscar-nominee Alex Gibney. It is a stunning inquiry into the suspicious death of an Afghani taxi driver at Bagram air base in 2002. A fastidiously assembled, uncommonly well-researched examination of how an innocent civilian was apprehended, imprisoned, tortured and ultimately murdered by the greatest democracy on earth. Intermingling documents and records of the incident with candid testimony from eyewitnesses and participants, the film uncovers an inescapable link between the tragic incidents that unfolded in Bagram and the policies made at the very highest level of the United States government in Washington, D.C.
6:45 to 7:30 p.m. Dinner
7:30 p.m. Closing night film, Mermaid (feature, 115 mins, Russia 2007)
Mr. Bena: “A beautiful art film that reminded me of Amelie, except it’s Russian and it has a twist — it’s message is still unclear to me and yet it still pops into my mind several days after viewing it.”
Mr. Westcott: “Visually compelling and light on its feet, the story of a young girl from the seaside finding her way in the big city — in this case, Moscow. Generated a lot of buzz at this year’s Sundance.”
Sundance winner of the world cinema directing award for Anna Melikyan, Mermaid is a modern-day fairy tale of surreal humor in the world of a girl’s imagination. Once upon a time a girl named Alisa lived by the sea. She let life carry her along, never struggling, always adapting to changing conditions and historical events. The only unusual thing about Alisa was her gift of making wishes come true. When she found herself in metropolitan Moscow, chance took her by the hand and introduced her to a man with a cross on his chest that read “save and protect.” Alisa took one look at the man, and her life changed forever . . . .